The World Beer Cup is Somewhat Perplexing

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April 12, 2010 at 11:48 am

Tom Keith
photo coutesy Brewers Association

photo coutesy Brewers Association

I’m perplexed. While that’s not an unusual occurrence, generally I tend to be less perplexed when dealing with issues beery, as opposed to dealing with real life issues.

This particular perplexion was triggered by the climax of the Brewers Association’s Craft Brewers Conference in Chicago last Saturday, April 10.  The Craft Brewers Conference brought brewers from all over the world to get together, schmooze, talk about beer, and probably raise a glass or two. Or three. Or four. Or … thirty?

The conference included judging for the biannual World Beer Cup. And judges were limited to sampling no more than thirty brews per session.

Could that explain why Red Dog won the gold medal for American-Style Cream Ale or Lager? Perplexing. It’s MillerCoors’ entry in the make-it-as-cheap-as-possible lawnmower beer category. Technically, I suppose, it’s a good beer, in that it’s consistent from batch to batch, never with any off-flavors (with as little flavor as it has, any off-flavor would come though shouting). It’s tough to argue with $11.99 for a 30-pack. But it’s also one of the few beers to get a zero rating (out of 100) on ratebeer.com. One comment: “A cheap tap water beer that tastes a lot like PBR, Bud Lt., MGD, Coors Lt, and Natty Ice, and is most likely a witches brew of all of them.” And that was one of the more favorable comments.

But, not perplexingly, the Midwest did well, despite its underappreciated status as a beer mecca. Of 268 gold, silver and bronze awards handed out (and you thought the Oscars had too many categories), the Midwest held its own against many regions of the world. The unofficial breakdown of all gold, silver and bronze winners, by region:

  • Western United States — 96
  • Eastern United States — 49
  • Europe  — 44
  • Midwestern United States  — 43
  • Asia —  8
  • Southern United States —  8
  • Southwestern United States —  7
  • Canada —  7
  • Australia —  3
  • Latin/South America  — 2

But that’s in part a function of the way beers were categorized. Perplexing. For example, Lone Star (Bronze medal, American-Style Cream Ale or Lager, brewed in Austin, TX) is considered an Illinois beer, since its parent company, Pabst, has its corporate headquarters (but no brewery) in Woodridge, IL. Another Pabst brew, Olympia, (Gold medal, American-Style Lager), brewed in Irwindale, California, is also considered an Illinois beer. (Both of those two beers get a pitiful rating of 2 out of 100 on ratebeer.)

But, not perplexingly, there were a number of local beers that truly deserved their honors — Chicago’s Goose Island’s offerings among the most prominent. A Gold Medal went to the Goose in the “English-Style India Pale Ale category,” for its India Pale Ale. Goose won another gold for its American-Style Brown Ale “Nut Brown Ale,” hogging that category by also receiving a bronze for its Christmas Ale. Its Lolita [a sour Belgian-style Raspberry Ale] got the Silver in the “Fruit Beer or Field Beer” category.

Point Horizon Wheat also won a well-deserved gold in the “American-Style Wheat Beer with Yeast” category, from a personal favorite brewery, Stevens Point Brewery in Stevens Point, WI.

Other local medals went to Pullman’s Reserve, bronze in the Wood- and Barrel-Aged categories, from the south suburbs’ Flossmoor Station Restaurant & Brewery, another bronze in the American-Style Stout category went to downtown Chicago’s Rock Bottom Brewery for its Terminal Stout, and Chicago’s Piece Brewery’s Top Heavy Hefeweizen won bronze in the South German-Style Hefeweizen/Hefeweissbier category.

Founders, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, won four medals, (not perplexing), but I was also surprised to see The Grumpy Troll, a small brewpub in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, winning silver in the Rye Beer category, and bronze for foreign-style stout.

Overall, 642 breweries from 44 countries and 47 U.S. states vied for awards, with 3,330 beers entered in 90 beer style categories. Full results can be seen here.

Personally, I think awards programs like this are interesting and fun, but not particularly informative – as exemplified by the discrepancy over World Beer Cup’s rankings of Red Dog, versus what’s been written on ratebeer. Take a sip and see what your palate tells you. That’s what it’s all about. It’s really not all that perplexing.

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One Comment

  1. Jim says:

    I’m not sure how helpful these competitions are – Chicago is blessed with some outstanding small breweries: Metropolitan, Half Acre, Two Brothers just to name three. Drink fresh and local!

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